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Transforming Marketing As A Force For Good

Rachel is the APAC CXM Chief Growth Officer and a DEI & Sustainability Thought Leader at Dentsu International; EMBA Mentor & Impact Coach.

In the current climate of seismic shifts in the global economy, marketing needs to be at the core of change. It must be integral to any business strategy for sustainable growth.

The marketing industry has fundamentally shaped the world we live in—from nurturing societal values, cultures and mindsets, to rooting our hearts’ desires (good and bad) toward a dream life and lifestyle. Thus, marketing is partly responsible for driving consumerism, production, employment and business growth. Less deliberately, it drives the well-being of people, communities and societies.

As brand strategist Arwa Mahdawi wrote in a recent column: “Being a good marketer is like having super powers: you can change people’s behaviour, you can shape the way they see the world. But with great power, of course, comes great responsibility.”

Our next generation of teenagers and youths are entangled in psychological complexities with negative social media impacts. Today’s social platform users often portray a superficial dream life that leads to constant comparison that does not satisfy them. These comparisons have led many users to feel trapped, constantly judged and even suicidal. It has led to self-condemnation, low self-esteem, depression and isolation. Deceived of a meaningless life, their feeling of “I will never be good enough” is very real, sadly.

It is now time to turn negative marketing’s evil track record into a positive one, being a force for good. This, in turn, can benefit brands and lead to sustainable growth. We need to pivot marketing’s “brainprint” toward a positive influence on worldviews, identities, lifestyles, social norms, cultures and societies if we desire to achieve a sustainable future with sustainable growth for businesses, where we all thrive.

It is also time-critical to reestablish brand experience with people. And not just commercially as employees and customers, but as global citizens who genuinely care about social, environmental and economical causes.

Responsible brands with good global citizen stewardship are taking urgent action to transform marketing. These are the brands that will thrive for the next decades despite small beginnings today. But the laser focus on fundamentally meeting needs, solving challenges with strong capabilities to innovate, and creating values to serve, will harness true success. This is particularly true for organizations that have embedded Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the core of their purpose with redefined success on the ESG (environment, social, governance) scale. This brainprint profoundly interlinks purpose and value with a successfully unmatched brand narrative that naturally engages people like never before.

Brand influence can reach far beyond the marketplace and the point of sale—and certainly beyond mere advertising campaigns.

We Lack A ‘Regenerative-By-Design’ Mindset

Marketing agencies have a significant role to play in partnerships with brands. Marketers must help to transform a brand’s marketing by first challenging traditional, business-as-usual marketing initiatives and CSRs (corporate social responsibilities). Moving forward, each effort must bring meaning, purpose and/or sustainable growth to the people, planet and brand.

As marketers, we need to redefine brand performance success for sustainable growth with a regenerative brand blueprint for positive brand influence and positive carbon footprint contributions.

Marketers need to help shift a brand’s mindset to be more sustainable-focused and well-being-conscious with a purposeful brainprint on marketing strategy. Also important is having a “heartprint” of how to meaningfully serve the needs of the people, mapping sustainable desires for an impactful “awakening moments” experience.

Is your brand’s 4Ps (products, pricing, promotions, place) eco-friendly? Have you considered who, what, why, when and how your 4Ps contribute to good beyond reasonable carbon footprint and overall well-being? Or do they put a burden on negative manufacturing output or consumer waste? Marketing needs to be purposeful in bringing out the value it serves to activate global citizenship. A healthy organization’s brainprint now becomes critical as a guide for a good brand identity and a brand blueprint to re-imagine.

We lack a regenerative-by-design mindset in the marketing industry. We must aim to be interoperably connected with research and product development to help reinvent how we might meet people’s needs differently, more purposefully and sustainably at a systemic level.

The creatives and innovations of products and services we offer will now need to consider shared values in the ecosystem of the industry. Essentially, the positive footprint needs to be on both the demand and supply side of the value chain—to sustainably grow, make, sell, transport, buy, use, and dispose of services and products. This is a strategic role that marketing needs to play to activate respective elements of a brand’s products and to help close the feedback loops of a redesigned and regenerative 4Ps go-to-market.

We need urgent collaboration for a radical transformation across the marketing, media and creative ecosystem. Data and platforms at the systemic level can help accelerate this change. Marketers need to integrate marketing and sustainability data to inform new correlations and benchmarks that account for interconnected impacts. By transforming how we think about marketing data, we have more opportunities to solve and reframe the problem and meet people’s changing needs more purposefully.

Pivot As A Force For Good

Imagine media planners soon having the responsibility of not only marketing campaigns’ financial targets but also climate change carbon targets. The planner will have to account for the response rates of certain channels while also considering the carbon footprint. And in this instance, if we transform how we look at the campaign to consider footprint, we could look at how much carbon is produced before even generating any results of the piece of communications or marketing campaign.

Imagine further the operational commitments of brands to fulfill their net-zero commitments on a science-based target of the growing scale of emissions (level scope 1, 2, and in particular, 3), where most solutions are not yet available. The increasing carbon tax on double-digit YoY will cause many legacy businesses that are not reframing success with ESG to be non-profiting quickly.

Given these driving forces of change, it is urgent for brands to pivot with their marketing agencies and ecosystem partners as a “force for good” altogether.

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